Town Council reduces failed New Milford budget
This translates to a tax increase of about 2.6 percent, down from the referendum’s proposal of 3.87 percent. It uses about $496,000 from the undesignated fund, instead of the $1.2 million.
On May 15, voters rejected a combined $101.6 million budget, which is about $583,000 more than the current year. The $38.3 million town budget passed 1,506-1,422, but the schools’ $63.3 million budget failed, 1,543-1,394, sending the entire proposal back to Town Council.
The new referendum will be on June 5.
The new budget includes $38.1 million for the town, $102,000 less than the figure the finance board set for the referendum, but $100,000 more than Town Council originally approved.
That $100,000 will fund half the requests from the Visiting Nurse Association, the Youth Agency and the fire departments’ capital replacement fund. All were removed from the Town Councils budget, but added back in the finance board’s version.
“It’s a compromise,” said Councilwoman Katy Francis, who proposed the new figures. “There’s no such thing as a painless cut. We’ll all feel it.”
Both the town and school figures are still more than what Town Council originally approved, which included keeping the schools the same as the current year.
Under this proposal, the schools will get $63.3 million, which keeps the $500,000 the finance board added back.
A key reason for keeping the figure as is was the announcement after the referendum that the governor had signed an approved budget that includes about $1.5 million more for New Milford than expected, including $1.1 million in education cost sharing. Though most of the council approved the new budget, members were skeptical the state will award the town that full amount and would most likely reduce that figure even more for the next fiscal year.
“Let’s try to come together on this, move this budget forward and find savings,” councilman Tom Esposito said.
School officials said the money was good news.
“With the restored stage funds, we believe that keeping the cuts to the education budget art the level of the May 15 referendum will produce a budget that is fiscally responsible, provide the necessary services required to maintain the quality of our schools and reduce the financial burden on the taxpayers of our town,” Tammy McInerney, the school board’s vice chairman said during the public comment part of the meeting.
She said even with this amount of money, the school district will still have to make about $950,000 in cuts.
Some of the schools’ biggest drivers this year were health insurance and special education costs, which are required.
Earlier in the meeting, some residents urged the council not to cut the school budget and said the referendum results were not a true representation of the town’s opinions because not everyone was able to vote due to the severe storm.
Mayor Pete Bass and Town Attorney Matt Grimes said there wasn’t anything in state statute or the town charter that required a new vote, especially because the polls remained open the whole 14 hours and had been open for 10 of those hours before the storm hit.
Last week’s referendum had about a 17.9 percent turnout, which is the highest it has been since 2010 when 19.3 percent of the electorate cast votes.